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Information Literacy and the Research Process - Sellersburg: Research Strategy

Research Strategy

When doing research in a library database or using an Internet search engine, there are strategies that you can employee to make your search more effective.  In any search, it is important to go with a plan and knowledge how to navigate the search process so that you can get the best results. 

Every database and search engine is different and you may have to do some reading and exploration to discover how to best to do your search.  This page will help you locate useful databases and search engines and will introduce search strategies for several databases and search engines.

Why Can't I Just Google?


Quick Search: IvyCat

Use IvyCat to find materials

in Ivy Tech Libraries and to link to ebooks

IvyCat Quick Search

Online Search Engines

Boolean Operators: Pirates vs. Ninjas

Boolean Operator: AND: Limits Your Search

Strawberry AND Vanilla AND Chocolate

Boolean Operator: OR: Expands Your Search

Strawberry OR Vanilla OR Chocolate

Boolean Operator: NOT: Limits Your Search

(Strawberry OR Vanilla) NOT Chocolate

Truncation and Wildcards

Truncation allows you to search for a term and its variations.  The symbol used for truncation is *

Wildcards can be used in place of one letter within a word.  This is useful when you are unsure of the spelling of the word or when there is more than one way to spell the word.  The most common wildcard symbol is ?

Database Truncation of Wildcard Symbol Examples

* Represents zero or more characters

? Represents exactly one character

comput* would find records containing computer, computer, computing

ne?t will find records containing neat, nest, next, etc.


* Represents zero or more character

! Represents zero or one character

? Represents exactly one character

pigment* will find records containing pigment, pigments, pigmentation

product! matches product and products but not productive or productivity

wom?n will find records containing woman and women

JSTOR + Represents plural forms

cat+ will find cat and cats

box+ will find fox and boxes

quiz+ will find quiz and quizzes


* Represents exactly one character

! Represents zero or more characters

Bernst**n will find records containing Bernstein or Bernstien

acqui! will find records containing acquire, acquired, acquiring, acquisition


* Represents zero or more characters

? Represents exactly one character

educat* will find records containing educator, educated, and education

educat?? will find records containing educator or educated but not education


Web Search Strategies in Plain English

Google Search Operators

Search for an exact word or phrase 
"search query"
Use quotes to search for an exact word or set of words in a specific order, without normal improvements such as spelling corrections and synonyms. This option is handy when searching for song lyrics or a line from literature. 
[ "imagine all the people" ]

Tip: Only use this if you're looking for a very precise word or phrase, because otherwise you could be excluding helpful results by mistake.

Exclude a word 
Add a dash (-) before a word to exclude all results that include that word. This is especially useful for synonyms like Jaguar the car brand and jaguar the animal.      
[ jaguar speed -car ]      

Tip: You can also exclude results based on other operators, like excluding all results from a specific site.       
[ pandas ]  

Include similar words 
Normally, synonyms might replace some words in your original query. Add a tilde sign (~) immediately in front of a word to search for that word as well as even more synonyms.      
[ ~food facts ] includes results for "nutrition facts"  
Search within a site or domain 
site: query
Include "site:" to search for information within a single website like all mentions of "Olympics" on the New York Times website.      
[ Olympics ]     

Tip: Also search within a specific top-level domain like .org or .edu or country top-level domain like .de or .jp.       
[ Olympics ]  

Include a "fill in the blank" 
query * query
Use an asterisk (*) within a query as a placeholder for any unknown or "wildcard" terms. Use with quotation marks to find variations of that exact phrase or to remember words in the middle of a phrase.       
[ "a * saved is a * earned" ]  
Search for either word 
query OR query
If you want to search for pages that may have just one of several words, include OR (capitalized) between the words. Without the OR, your results would typically show only pages that match both terms. You can also use the | symbol between words for the same effect.      
[ olympics location 2014 OR 2018 ]      

Tip: Enclose phrases in quotes to search for either one of several phrases.       
[ "world cup 2014" OR "olympics 2014" ]  

Search for a number range 
Separate numbers by two periods (with no spaces) to see results that contain numbers in a given range of things like dates, prices, and measurements.      
[ camera $50..$100]       

Tip: Use only one number with the two periods to indicate an upper maximum or a lower minimum.       
[ world cup winners ..2000

Bing Search Operators



Finds webpages that contain all the terms or phrases

ex: dog AND cat



Excludes webpages that contain a term

ex: climbing NOT rock



Finds webpages that contain either term

ex: dog OR cat


Returns results that contain the specified phrase, exactly

ex: "Ivy Tech Community College"


Limits results to a specific domain

ex: election


finds RSS or Atom feeds pertaining to your term

ex: feed:surfing


Constrains the distance between terms in a document

ex: dog near:10 cat


Returns webpages that belong to a specified site

"heart disease" ( OR